Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s role in the Weinstein trial raises serious legal issues | Media Pyro

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SACRAMENTO – California First Lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom has been appointed to testify early in the trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, in what experts say will be a test case for # MeToo.

Siebel Newsom’s attorney Beth Fegan confirmed to the Chronicle that the first California friend was one of the witnesses, but would not comment further on her testimony. During the trial, Siebel Newsom is called not by name, but one of the witnesses “Jane Doe” who claims that Weinstein abused them.

However, the way she said it, there was little speculation as to who she was among the Jane Does — the defense and prosecution identified her in court as the wife of Governor Gavin Newsom.

Although many of the accusations against Weinstein that have come out in the last few years have affected famous women – including Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd – Siebel Newsom’s role as the first partner of the national leader. the government adds a new dimension to the case. And the ways Weinstein’s defense attorneys have sought to impeach her — including calling her a “bimbo” who they say is having sex — is a chance in time. #MeToo, experts say. Historical accounts of the news coverage of these cases have now been painted as brutal, malicious, and malicious in the Weinstein case.

The news that Siebel Newsom, who has previously made public accusations against Weinstein, is one of the women who testifies that he abused her, has generated a lot of articles and the attention of the tribe In court, Weinstein allegedly assaulted her in a hotel room after meeting her in 2005.

Fegan, who was several witnesses at the trial but was not part of the prosecution team, said the nature of the accused made it difficult to remain anonymous.

“Having celebrity witnesses in trials like this adds a level of visibility that hurts the victims and really makes the pain worse,” Fegan said. “Evil trials continue every day, and victims testify, but they find solace in anonymity. That will never last here.”

Siebel Newsom has yet to testify and it is unclear when she will take office. The judge ordered him to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Monday after court was closed Friday for Veterans Day and the weekend.

The stakes are high. The #MeToo movement of women speaking out about workplace harassment didn’t start with Weinstein, but studies published by the New York Times and The New Yorker on women who say they were harassed by Weinstein, or abused them, made the event a global phenomenon.

Weinstein was previously found guilty of two counts of criminal mischief, including extortion, in a 2020 New York trial, which he faces. In the Los Angeles trial, he pleaded not guilty to four counts of rape, four counts of oral sex, two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual penetration through the use of force.

Weinstein’s lawyers deny that he assaulted any of the five women who are accusing him in the Los Angeles lawsuit. They argue that the accusations did not occur, or that there was a consent program in which women exchanged sex for professional work.

As in many sexual assault cases, the defense in its opening statements pointed to statements made by Siebel Newsom and other witnesses to Weinstein as evidence that they had a positive encounter. They pointed to friendly emails Siebel Newsom exchanged with the producer after the alleged attack, including one in which she thanked him for inviting her and her husband to a meeting.

“She brought her husband to meet and party with the person who raped her,” said attorney Mark Werksman. “Who does that?”

The accuser said Siebel Newsom stayed with Weinstein because she felt she had “no choice,” according to trial reports. Prosecutors said she refused to meet him again, but saw him in public because he was a close friend of Democratic politicians, including her husband.

Weinstein’s arguments are similar to the other witnesses’ credibility, claiming that when they attended the meetings Weinstein was a celebrity or agreed to future meetings with him. after allegedly attacking them.

Pointing to the women’s and men’s social media accounts that they say assaulting them is just self-defense, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“That’s the right defense to raise,” Levenson said. “In the past, it was something that was brought up by the accused, and the judges could do it. I think there’s less of an outcry after the #MeToo movement, when people start to appreciate the women, especially in some situations, do not have much choice.

Noreen Farrell, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equal Rights Advocates, said women often have to deal with their abusers to keep their jobs. In his experience, he said, the Weinstein controversy that arises is being told less and less to jurors.

“It’s a tradition as old as time,” he said. “If the #MeToo movement has done anything, it’s been devastating.”

Other aspects of Weinstein’s defense also reflected old arguments in sexual assault cases, Levenson said, including Werksman’s description of Siebel Newsom as a “bimbo” during opening statements. dispute.

“He’s been a victim of the #MeToo movement,” Werksman told jurors this month, according to source reports. “Otherwise she’s just a bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to make it in Hollywood.”

In the past, that type of argument was effective in discrediting rape victims, Levenson said, but it’s less appealing to today’s judges, and it can be harmful.

“In the past, I think the victims were put under the microscope, their motivations were questioned. They were the ones who were judged,” he said. “I think it’s less effective now.”

Fegan said he was concerned that the nature of the witness statements in the trial could prevent harassed women from coming forward in the future.

Levenson said a large-scale prosecution is especially difficult for women who testify because it often connects them publicly to the person they say abused them. But, he said, if Weinstein is convicted, it might prevent men in power from harassing women in the workplace in the future, a situation that hasn’t worked very well in the past.

“I think a lawsuit like this can change that whole dynamic and hopefully protect women and other victims in the future,” he said.

Sophia Bollag is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SophiaBollag

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